By Mr. James Wimshurst.
I have the honor this evening of addressing a few remarks to you upon the subject of influence machines, and the manner in which I propose to treat the subject is to state as shortly as possible, first, the historical portion, and afterward to point out the prominent characteristics of the later and the more commonly known machines. The diagrams upon the screen will assist the eye to the general form of the typical machines, but I fear that want of time will prevent me from explaining each of them.
In 1762 Wilcke described a simple apparatus which produced electrical charges by influence, or induction, and following this the great Italian scientist Alexander Volta in 1775 gave the electrophorus the form which it retains to the present day. This apparatus may be viewed as containing the germ of the principle of all influence machines yet constructed.
Another step in the development was the invention of the doubler by Bennet in 1786. He constructed metal plates which were thickly varnished, and were supported by insulating handles, and which were manipulated so as to increase a small initial charge. It may be better for me to here explain the process of building up an increased charge by electrical influence, for the same principle holds in all of the many forms of influence machines.
This Volta electrophorus, and these three blackboards, will serve for the purpose. I first excite the electrophorus in the usual manner, and you see that it then influences a charge in its top plate; the charge in the resinous compound is known as negative, while the charge induced in its top plate is known as positive. I now show you by this electroscope that these charges are unlike in character. Both charges are, however, small, and Bennet used the following system to increase them.
Let these three boards represent Bennet's three plates. To plate No. 1 he imparted a positive charge, and with it he induced a negative charge in plate No. 2. Then with plate No. 2 he induced a positive charge in plate No. 3. He then placed the plates Nos. 1 and 3 together, by which combination he had two positive charges within practically the same space, and with these two charges he induced a double charge in plate No. 2. This process was continued until the desired degree of increase was obtained. I will not go through the process of actually building up a charge by such means, for it would take more time than I can spare.Fig. 11. Fig. 12.
In 1787 Carvallo discovered the very important fact that metal plates when insulated always acquire slight charges of electricity; following up those two important discoveries of Bennet and Carvallo, Nicholson in 1788 constructed an apparatus having two disks of metal insulated and fixed in the same plane. Then by means of a spindle and handle, a third disk, also insulated, was made to revolve near to the two fixed disks, metallic touches being fixed in suitable positions. With this apparatus he found that small residual charges might readily be increased. It is in this simple apparatus that we have the parent of influence machines (see Fig. 1), and as it is now a hundred years since Nicholson described this machine in the Phil. Trans., I think it well worth showing a large sized Nicholson machine at work to-night (see Fig. 11, above).
In 1823 Ronalds described a machine in which the moving disk was attached to and worked by the pendulum of a clock. It was a modification of Nicholson's doubler, and he used it to supply electricity for telegraph working. For some years after these machines were invented no important advance appears to have been made, and I think this may be attributed to the great discoveries in galvanic electricity which were made about the commencement of this century by Galvani and Volta, followed in 1831 to 1857 by the magnificent discoveries of Faraday in electro-magnetism, electro-chemistry, and electro-optics, and no real improvement was made in influence machines till 1860, in which year Varley patented a form of machine shown in Fig. 2. It also was designed for telegraph working.
In 1865 the subject was taken up with vigor in Germany by Toepler, Holtz, and other eminent men. The most prominent of the machines made by them are figured in the diagrams (Figs. 3 to 6), but time will not admit of my giving an explanation of the many points of interest in them; it being my wish to show you at work such of the machines as I may be able, and to make some observations upon them.
In 1866 Bertsch invented a machine, but not of the multiplying type; and in 1867 Sir William Thomson invented the form of machine shown in Fig. 7, which, for the purpose of maintaining a constant potential in a Leyden jar, is exceedingly useful.
The Carre machine was invented in 1868, and in 1880 the Voss machine was introduced, since which time the latter has found a place in many laboratories. It closely resembles the Varley machine in appearance, and the Toepler machine in construction.
In condensing this part of my subject, I have had to omit many prominent names and much interesting subject matter, but I must state that in placing what I have before you, many of my scientific friends have been ready to help and to contribute, and, as an instance of this, I may mention that Prof. Sylvanus P. Thompson at once placed all his literature and even his private notes of reference at my service.
I will now endeavor to point out the more prominent features of the influence machines which I have present, and, in doing so, I must ask a moment's leave from the subject of my lecture to show you a small machine made by that eminent worker Faraday, which, apart from its value as his handiwork, so closely brings us face to face with the imperfect apparatus with which he and others of his day made their valuable researches.